Plastic straws are the standard at fast-food restaurants around the world.
We use them almost daily without thinking twice. However, they are wreaking havoc on our environment. Instead, we should be looking for alternatives like bamboo and glass.
Are glass and bamboo straws good for the environment?
Glass and bamboo straws are both excellent options that are great for the environment. Both are long-lasting and can be transformed at the end of their lifespan. Glass can be recycled while bamboo is biodegradable.
How Eco-Friendly Are Glass and Bamboo Straws?
Plastic straws are abundant in our everyday lives right now.
We pick them up at fast-food restaurants, we keep a supply in our homes, and we never think twice about using them. Unfortunately, our plastic habit is polluting our oceans and making it more difficult for sea creatures to live their lives.
Almost ten million tons of plastic makes its way into the ocean each year. It’s time that we start doing something differently.
Glass and bamboo straws are a good place to start. They can easily replace plastic straws and do not take up much room in your purse, glove box, or kitchen drawers at home. You can do your part for the environment and still sip your beverages in style.
For more information on how eco-friendly these materials are, see this breakdown below.
Compared to the plastic straws that are popular at restaurants and around the globe, glass straws offer a viable eco-friendly alternative. Many people like glass straws because they are particularly long-lasting compared to other eco-friendly options like paper straws or compostable straws.
They are reusable and are often preferred by people who worry about the cleanliness of other types of straws.
The main benefit of using a glass straw is that they are completely see-through. You can easily determine whether they are clean or whether mold and mildew have taken up residence inside of your straw.
Of course, you do have to consider the fact that glass can shatter if not properly cared for. If safety is an issue or you happen to be particularly careless, these may not be a good fit for you. However, you should remember that even broken glass can be recycled.
These straws are incredibly eco-friendly from beginning to end!
If you worry about shattering a delicate glass straw, then you should consider opting for bamboo.
This fast-growing plant is quickly renewable. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with certain species growing up to three feet in just one day.
This means that it is easily renewable, allowing for more and more of these types of straws to be produced.
Another benefit of having bamboo straws is that they are usually free of harmful chemicals. They are typically constructed without pesticides, chemicals, or dyes. This means that they will be even healthier than plastic straws could ever hope to be.
Unfortunately, there is one major disadvantage to bamboo straws. You must hand wash them and make sure that they are thoroughly dry.
If they do not dry, they are susceptible to growing mold on the interior of the straw, which can be damaging to your health.
How Long Does a Bamboo Straw Last?
The good news is that bamboo straws are extremely long-lasting.
Some people find that they can use their straws for years before needing to replace them. Others prefer to replace their straws every year or so, just to ensure that they are clean and have no mold growth on the interior of the straw.
Of course, proper maintenance is everything with these particular straws. For the most part, all you need to do is rinse them out with tap water when you are finished using them.
If you want to get them extra clean, place them in a jar with warm soapy water and shake vigorously for a few minutes, then rinse the straw clean. Place it in a well-ventilated area so that it can air dry thoroughly.
Every month or so, you will want to do a deep clean. In a pot on the stovetop, bring some water to a boil and add a splash of distilled white vinegar. Allow the straw to soak for a while and then leave it to air dry.
You know that your bamboo straw has reached the end of its lifespan when it starts to affect the taste of your beverages. It should always have a neutral taste, so pay attention to taste when your straw begins to get older.
It also should not affect the color of your beverages.
How Long Does a Glass Straw Last?
Unlike bamboo straws that may need to be replaced every year or every couple of years, glass straws can last indefinitely with the right care and maintenance.
The only downside to glass straws is that they are prone to breaking, something you do not have to worry about with bamboo. This might shorten their lifespan significantly if you happen to be clumsy or careless with some of your belongings.
Of course, like bamboo, you do have to take care of your glass straws properly. Many people prefer to just let their dishwasher handle the cleaning process.
You can tuck your glass straws in the same area used for your silverware. This should be sufficient to get them clean, particularly if you rinse them clean directly after use.
If you do wash them by hand, you may want to consider investing in a small brush. This is great for clearing out chunks and seeds if you typically use your glass straw for drinking smoothies.
It is also ideal for when you start to see mold or mildew build-up on the inside of the straw. The brush can clean it away so that you can go back to using it as normal.
Can These Straws be Recycled?
When you are finished with your straws, or they reach the end of their lifespan, what is going to happen to them? If they are just going to find their way into a landfill, are they worth making the switch?
Most people want to know whether these types of straws can be recycled.
Glass straws are relatively easy.
Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled time and again without losing any of its quality. Even if your glass straw breaks before you have the opportunity to retire it, you can sweep up the mess and toss it into your recycling bin for it to start a new life.
Bamboo straws are a different story. Typically, when something is recycled, it is melted down to create something new and whole. Bamboo is a plant that will not hold up under this type of process.
A bamboo straw cannot typically be recycled, but it can be composted for those who are concerned about what to do with the straws when they finish with them.
In a different way, bamboo can be recycled in the sense that it can be transformed into something else. Get creative with what you can do with your straws when you finish with them!
Is Bamboo Biodegradable?
The good news is that bamboo is biodegradable.
Because it is essentially nothing more than a fast-growing grass, it can easily return to the earth when you are finished using it as a straw.
Add your bamboo straws to your compost heap when you are finished with them and ready to replace them with something new.
Bamboo will typically return to the soil within about six months.
Are Glass Straws Biodegradable?
While glass straws can be recycled, they are not biodegradable.
These are not items that you would want to throw onto the compost heap because they will remain intact for years.
It could be dangerous to add them to your compost heap because they can cut up your hands months or even years later if you are not careful.
Should You Choose Bamboo or Glass Straws to Help the Environment?
If you want to help out the environment, the best thing you can do is turn away from plastic drinking straws.
By eliminating your usage of disposable plastic, you are saving tons of sea creatures from potential harm. The good news is that you have healthy and affordable alternatives like glass and bamboo straws.
Both options are great for the environment, but you might prefer one over the other.
Bamboo straws are easy to take care of and can last for many years when taken care of properly. They are durable and can be biodegradable in your compost heap when you are finished with them.
Unfortunately, they can develop mold on the inside where you cannot see them if they do not air dry properly.
Glass straws are more fragile and prone to break, but you can see inside of them if mold begins to grow. Keep in mind that glass can be recycled, but it is not biodegradable.
No matter which option you go with, you are doing your part to help the environment!
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Maria is the founder of GoDownsize. While studying architecture in Denmark she became fascinated with designing living spaces for boats, tiny houses, RVs, and other small spaces.
She mainly writes about space optimization, interior design, and downsizing. She’s also in charge of our YouTube channel. Read more about Maria here.